As Christmas approaches I get increasingly preoccupied with making sure enough presents will be ready in time. The exchange of gifts, even in hard times, is a lovely sign of the love and generosity of God. That is why I’ve chosen an image of Christmas gifts as a sign of God’s generosity and the human capacity to reflect that in sharing with others. There are many stories in the Bible about giving. This post is about one of them.
Sometimes the simplest and shortest stories are the best.
Take this story about the prophet Elisha for example. It is from 2 Kings 4: 42 – 44. All you need to know is that the context was a time of famine, the crops had failed and barley was the staple food. Hungry people were in desperate need of someone to help. Here is the short story of a miracle, quoted in full:
“A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat.’ But his servant said, ‘How can I set this before a hundred people?’ So he repeated, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, “They shall eat and have some left.” ’ He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.”
I told you it was short. What does it say to you?
What this story says to me is this:
- The human community is mutually interdependent. No-one is self-sufficient. Just to survive we are dependent on strangers as well as friends. Unnamed people from far away are the suppliers of our daily food.
- God knows our needs and is generous in providing for those needs. See Psalm 34: 9 – 10.
- People can be generous. (Twenty loaves and a sack of fresh ears of grain is a substantial gift.)
- When we receive generosity, it is for sharing generously not hoarding selfishly. This can be risky or seem pointless. Twenty loaves for 100 hungry men? It’s not enough is it?
- God can be trusted to multiply what seems too little into more than enough. This can also be seen in the action of Jesus in the story of the feeding of the 5000. Take a look at John 6: 1 – 14 and see how it echoes the story of Elisha.
- My reflections on this story don’t seem much, but I’m sharing them online here anyway. Who knows what God will do with them?